This month’s missive comes to you from Jim Carey, our Earl’s Place case manager. As always, thank you.  Stay safe. Be well.

In 1999, I was employed with the Homeless Emergency and Environmental Services Unit (HEESU), at the Baltimore City Department of Social Services. For several years, I provided case management services to families and single adults experiencing homelessness. I quickly learned that resources were always scarce.

As time went on, I became the Triage Coordinator. As the Coordinator, I would see clients return day after day. Clients would tell me the good and the bad of this shelter or that housing program, of this worker or that worker. I quickly learned that individuals with lived experiences had valuable information to share.

Over time, I watched as one co-worker referred several clients to a program called “Earl’s Place”. At the time, I had no personal knowledge of Earl’s Place. I asked my co-worker about Earl’s Place. All I remember him saying was, “It’s transitional housing and they can stay there for a while.” This “Earl’s Place” seemed like a black hole to me, because clients went there and never came back. I did not think much about Earl’s Place after that, since placing clients was not my role at the time.

Fast forward to 2010, I left state service. Then I found myself interviewing for a part time position at Earl’s Place, that “black hole” of resources. I met Sheila Helgerson, the Executive Director, for my interview. As the interview ended and I was leaving Sheila’s office, I met Tony H. in the foyer. Tony H. was a former client from HEESU. Tony was a difficult client, impatient and demanding. Co-workers ducked when he came into the office. I always met with Tony H. and assisted him. Tony was a regular at HEESU, then one day he stopped coming. He just disappeared. Now, there he was at Earl’s Place. He had completed the program at Earl’s Place and secured permanent housing. What I have learned since that day, is that Earl’s Place is more like a light than a black hole. It is a light that guides those struggling with recovery and homelessness out of the darkness.

I have seen programs and providers come and go over the years. Earl’s Place has been there, quietly helping men return to their communities and their families. The men are sons, brothers, uncles, and fathers. Earl’s Place, for many, provides time to heal. Time to recover.

Being a part of Earl’s Place and being a “GEM” is truly rewarding. Knowing that my assistance, or my small financial gift, may have such a positive effect on someone’s life is humbling. Being able to watch someone succeed is inspiring. I am proud to be a part of this team, “dedicated to assisting men who are homeless who want to change their lives, and to changing community attitudes toward the homeless”.